Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! My name is Lizzy and I’m the founder of Freely Project, a social enterprise that I begin in April 2017. I graduated from CSU Dominguez Hills in 2011 and from Pepperdine University in 2014. I have a background in psychology and social work, and currently work as a youth therapist in Los Angeles County. I enjoy dabbling in writing in my spare time (a blog is in the works) and I love quality time with my favorite people.
What exactly is the Freely Project?
Freely Project is a social enterprise; a business that also addresses a social concern. I make jewelry and tees and donate 35% of each purchase to organizations that directly work with helping young people transition out of homelessness.
What inspired you to start the Freely Project?
When I graduated from high school, I had the same aspirations as anyone does- to help people. I spent my junior college years bouncing from major to major, trying to figure out exactly what that meant. After taking a sociology class centered around social problems, I gained some direction and pursued an undergraduate degree in sociology. But even after graduation I was just floating from idea to idea until I enrolled in a twelve-week internship that was funded by LA County Department of Mental Health. I had the opportunity to intern for an agency that worked with transitional-aged youth, particularly those that had recently aged out of foster care. The agency worked to help these young adults find stabilized housing and enroll in school and/or full-time work. My job was to simply check in with them weekly and through these conversations I learned so much about the need that exists. I wasn’t wealthy growing up, but my parents always went above and beyond to ensure that I had what a needed to create a solid foundation for the rest of my life. But these young people did not- it was here that my desire to help this particular population really began.
How did you come up with the name?
Pepperdine University has a mantra on their school crest- “Freely you have received; freely give.” I sat with this idea and I knew that I wanted my project to give back somehow. I imagined what our communities would look like if people lived a life centered around people giving freely, and the name evolved from there.
Where are your products sold? Are they sold in stores?
Currently we are only online, and one of the easiest ways to access our site is through Instagram. We aren’t sold in stores (yet!), but every couple of months we join pop ups in different cities. We just had one this past April 27-28 at Pinners Conference in Atlanta!
What is your favorite part about running the Freely Project?
My favorite part has got to be connecting to new people. Whether it’s the young people, or customers at the pop ups, I’m always so encouraged whenever people have a positive response to Freely Project. I also like planning for it, if that makes sense. I like coming up with new designs and thinking about the potential that this project can have.
What is your least favorite part about running the Freely Project?
Being a one-woman show has been hard, but as hard as this season is I have learned so much about building my confidence. I guess, technically speaking, I do lean heavily on the support of my family who very willingly help me out at pop ups without expecting anything in return. I’m confident this will change over the years, but for now it’s been quite the learning experience.
Is there a favorite product?
This evolves often- but I would say my favorites are the original bar (cable chain) in gold, or the petite circle necklace in silver. My soon-to-be favorite tee is launching in the shop soon- it’s a simple white tee with the words ‘freely give.’ embroidered in the front. You just can’t go wrong with a simple white tee!
Your purchases help young people transition out of homelessness, can you tell us about that?
The 35% donation portion is already worked into the price of every product in the store. At the end of every quarter (January, April, July, and October), the donation portions are split evenly and sent to each of our partners. Currently, we have a partner in Los Angeles (the Dream Center’s Freedom House), Seattle (ROOTS Young Adult Shelter), and Las Vegas (Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth). We also support a hospice home in Tijuana, Mexico which houses over 120 people with various medical and mental conditions. We refer to this partnership as a ‘Spotlight Project’ because it is not directly related to youth homelessness but it is a cause that we deeply care for.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Social media has been so helpful in spreading the word. It’s allowed me to easily connect with potential customers and I have been linked to pop ups through it.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
There will never be a “right” time for anything, so go for it! We all have talents, gifts, knowledge, and the ability to create something meaningful. Start with what you have, and trust your heart in the process. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a group of people that believe in you and cheer you on when things get hard.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” J.R. R. Tolkien. I believe we all were put on this earth for a purpose. None of us is born knowing how much time we have, so why not decide how you can best make use of it?
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
April 7 marked Freely Project’s one-year birthday! With new designs in the works, new potential partnerships, and pop ups in new cities, I believe year two is going to bring forward new opportunities, new adventures, and new memories. I invite you all to follow us on Instagram (@freelyproject) to stay up-to-date with all of the latest news.